Impostor Syndrome: My First Generation Experience
Growing up as the only girl in a single parent hispanic household, education was heavily emphasized. My mom was undocumented at the time and wanted us to do better for ourselves. My mom disclosed to me from an early age that she never wanted to have any girls and she would have preferred to have a boy when I was born. As the only girl, I felt like there was extra pressure placed on me to succeed and prove myself. From an early age I was labeled as “gifted” or “talented” and placed in honors classes. I think this placed even more pressure on me because I always wanted to do my best. I didn’t want to disappoint my mom and I wanted her to like me. If you were were labeled as gifted like me, then you probably had a similar experience.
Research shows that children placed in gifted and talented can struggle with perfectionism in the long run as well as unrealistic expectations at times. Burnout, exhaustion, self-esteem issues, feelings of guilt, and impatience may be some of the other effects.
I started thinking about these things because Ive been struggling with impostor syndrome a lot lately and I was trying to understand what could be causing it. Psychology Today defines impostor syndrome as “People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them. Those with imposter syndrome are often well accomplished; they may hold high office or have numerous academic degrees.”
I went to school and got my B.A in Behavioral Sciences and my master of social work degree. I passed my licensing exam with the board of behavioral sciences and am a licensed clinical social worker. In the eyes of others I can be successful, smart, knowledgeable, and a mentor. But deep inside Ive always felt like I wasn’t as smart as others. In class I felt like I could never articulate myself as good as everyone else. When I graduated I thought to myself “how did this happen?”. When you experience impostor syndrome you experience a lot of self doubt and comparing yourself to others. There is fear that you may not live up to expectations which may cause a lot of self sabotaging. Self sabotaging by maybe not applying for that promotion because you don’t feel like you're good enough or not speaking up in meetings, etc. It can cause constant anxiety of over preparing and doing extra things to “prove” your worth.
There is fear that you may not live up to expectations which may cause a lot of self sabotaging.
Even worse when you accomplish your goals you still question why you did. Was it luck? Did someone overlook something? Starting a new project like this blog has helped me realize how our upbringing can really impact us in the long run in so many different areas of our lives.
YOU'RE A BAD ASS
As a child I may not have had my own voice and had to do things to make my mom happy. But as an adult we have a voice and we can challenge these negative beliefs and doubts. Think about yourself as a child. Picture yourself sitting with the younger version of yourself. What would you tell this child? Sometimes we need to speak to ourselves like we would to our inner child.
To help overcome impostor syndrome, we have to change our mindset about what we are capable of doing. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and reward ourselves for our hard work along the way. Acknowledging that you did the work. You did the work. Repeat that to yourself. You aren’t in your current situation because of luck. You did the hard work, put in the long hours, you passed the exams, you did it all. You earned your achievements and nobody can take that away from you. If you have any mentors, talk to them about these feelings. That can be a good support system.
Have you ever been studying something and practiced teaching to someone else to make sure that you had it down? If you're having impostor syndrome you can try mentoring or teaching others about your particular field or subject. But overall, I think it's important to remember that nobody is perfect. Everyone has their own insecurities. The person that you compare yourself to may also be going through their own impostor syndrome. Challenge these thoughts and don’t let them keep you from following the path you want to take. We all have our own unique strengths and challenges. Lets practice gratitude with how far we have come.